Parents’ media use at dinner table linked to child’s body mass index (BMI), study finds

Monday, May 22, 2017

A recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows that less media use at the table by parents is associated with lower body mass index for their children, suggesting phones, tablets and TV at meal time could influence child weight outcomes. This association between media use and child BMI was amplified when family dinners happen more frequently.

The study, led by Melissa Horning of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, also shows that more consistent dinnertime routines are associated with lower BMI among kids. Similar to media use, these associations are stronger when dinners happen more frequently.

“These findings affirm the importance of being socially present and mindful during family meal time,” said Horning. “We can’t say for certain that there’s a causation, but the link is telling. By being present in the planning, preparation and eating of family meals, families can make and role-model healthier decisions.”

This research analyzed baseline data from 160 parent-child pairs. While this study’s participants represent a small sample size, Horning added that future studies need to explore more diverse samples to better understand how media use and meal routines affect all families.

“Frequent family meals in conjunction with consistent routines and reduction in parent dinnertime media use may be important for the prevention of childhood obesity,” Horning said.

University of Minnesota School of Nursing

The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is ranked among the nation’s top nursing schools. It is a leader in nursing research and has a combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of approximately 950 students. The School of Nursing is one of six schools and colleges in the Academic Health Center, one of the most comprehensive facilities for health professionals in the nation, fostering interdisciplinary study, research and education. For more information, visit



David Martinson

University of Minnesota PR